Part 2: Project 2: Ex 2: Wrapping with materials and threads

I have researched the work of ‘outsider artist’ Judith Scott*1 (now deceased) – she used a variety of wrapping materials & weavings to create large & small structures. She was born with Downs Syndrome, as well as being mute and deaf. She was abandoned to an institution, as she was considered uneducatable by the time she was 7 years old. She experienced social deprivation and massive under stimulation. Her twin sister Joyce, rescued her from this environment later and became her legal guardian.

She was offered a place at an art class, one of the first of its kind for people with disabilities in Ohio. Joyce’s ongoing sisterly support, and this art environment, eventually provided the necessary breeding ground for Judith’s wrapping of objects. No one was able to decipher why she did her artful wrappings, did she see them as art? No one knows. She created over 200 sculptures in her life time. I love her work, it was deeply personal to her and had arisen out of her own world and psyche. This story begs the question about what is art? How many mainstream artists have an idea, then organise other people to construct the work? Here in Judith, was art that came out of her very being, she manifested every thread, shape and layer. An interesting article in Crafts magazine*2, describes the rise of the outsider artist, into mainstream galleries. The article featured Judith Scott and her sculptures in the March  /April 2016 issue.

The American visual artist/photographer Frances Lina Conde stayed at my house for 10 days, during this period and she introduced me to her wrapped organic wire formed shapes that were photographed and juxtaposed against the stark extraordinary landscapes of Lanzarote. She had an exhibition “Profundidad”, in Barcelona, March 2016.

Eager to begin, my starting point was to do a number of small wrappings on various surfaces , for example wrapping thread around wire, tiny bundles of fabric; wrapping screws and rawl plugs; wrapping CD inserts with yarn.

Next, I cast my eye around the  house and my ‘stash’ of found objects (mostly broken pieces of domestic ephemera ). Once selected, I choose a bold shiny fabric and a flat matt complimentary colored thread for a wrap. With the wrappings in place disguising its origins, I loved its unintended organic shape immediately. I did a second wrap to part of the piece in fine gold wire, which gave a web-like gossamer effect. It became a talking point in the room. No one could guess what ordinary object was underneath those wrappings (2.2.1WMT).


My next samples (2.2.2a-c) started life as a vintage, twin candle holder. The meaning for me is that it is a holder of ‘light’ in a sometimes ‘dark’ world. I wrapped it in see-through plastic film, so that initially I could see right through to the object. It was undisguised. The object has some interesting features that could be teased into intriguing wraps. The next wrap was fine silver thread. My initial aim was to see as much of the object as possible.


However, as I wrapped, I questioned whether keeping this idea of ‘light’, was useful, given how much of a dichotomy there is in the world, especially since the refugee crises and humanitarian issues that have been in the news and affected so much of Europe. As I see it, there is as much ‘darkness’ as ‘light’. I’m thinking of religious fundamentalism,  war, profits-before-people, greed, femicide(*3), genocide, pollution.  I wrapped  it in a dark black thread for this reason.


This was not enough to make a statement. I wrapped it in thick grey yarn to see where this would take this piece. I wanted it to be more menacing. I wrapped across as well as around and then turned the object upside. Now, the appearance has a more, demonic quality. Can I keep going? Or is it enough?  This is starting to look like a darker, gloomier image, the opposite of light. This is the Goddess of darkness and dark forces. And like Kali, her Indian counterpart, and Nix from the Greeks, she was at once the ‘giver of life’ and at the same time ‘the wielder of the destructive powers of nature’. Light and dark at the same time.


The Lampedusa Cross by carpenter Francesco Tuccio was created from the wreckage of a boat that had been carrying 500 fleeing refugees on 11 October, 2013. It sank off the coast of Sicily where Tuccio lived, only 151 people survived. He collected the flotsum of wood, he created crosses from the wreck and gave them to the remaining refugees. The Pope travelled to take a service on the island. The BBC picked up the story, The British Museum acquired a cross and have placed it on public display in London.


Tuccio stated …”I hope that if one person sees the Cross and is moved to use their skills to do something about it, that will be great.” Jill Cook, senior curator at the British Museum stated “…I’ve used my skills as a curator to put this in the public eye…” My own response is to use my making skills for this project and to look back to more peaceful cultures and create my own symbol.

The Vinca goddess culture has left behind hundreds of sculptures and this topic found its way into my next wrapping. Many of the sculptures have elongated necks, amorphous bodies and rounded hips. I had to recreate a stone sculpture using a styrofoam sphere, cardboard tube, wooden dowling and wire.  It took several attempts to get a pleasing shape (2.WM.6a), using the right materials, plus the use of my husbands sacred space (his workshop) and an understanding of using his static electric drill with various drill bits. I have spent hours getting it this far. I finally stitched a layer of torn organza into the former before inserting an Indian mantra into the cardboard tube (for peace and protection of the whole world). I swapped the first idea of using cocktail sticks wrapped with pipe-cleaners to make the arms,  with wooden doweling, it is stronger and it makes the whole structure more solid. Only then did I begin wrapping in yarn, string and crochet thread (red for fire, brown for the earth and blue for the sky and sea).  That was the easy part, it has taken days of planning and execution.

Marijas Gumbutas book and images





*1 Judith Scot

*2 The rise of the outsider artist. “Why Outsider Art is All the Rage” Glen Adamson, Crafts magazine. Issue 259, February 2016

*3 The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas. ISBN 0-520-04655-2

*4 Femicide


Part2: Project 2: Ex 3: Uneven Wrapping

I have researched the work of Christo ( born ‘Histro’ in Bulgaria in 1935) and his partner Jeanne-Claude,  born in Morocco on the same date (1935 –2009). Together as artists, they wrapped and covered landscapes, buildings and smaller objects. It was interesting to see familiar objects or landmasses cocooned in unfamiliar layers, some parts highlighted or obscured as a result of their work. Or “..revelation through concealment..” as art critic David Bourdon*1  once said. Christo insisted their work was, “…to create works of art for joy and beauty and to create new ways of seeing familiar landscapes…”. My interest, as far as this project is concerned is looking at their smaller wrapped objects, like bottles and cans. There was no doubt what the objects were, they did little to disguise the shapes.

Wrapped objects of Christo and Jean Claude

 I also looked at the work of French Algerian artist Alice Anderson who wraps in copper wire; she works in big installation pieces or has wrapped small objects in her studio. In an interview with Aesthetica Magazine about her installations and performance for Frieze, in 2012, she said “When I am winding around objects I guess that I am transforming a libidinal energy into something else. It is like an act of reparation, protection, and preservation. During the past two years, I’ve focused on binding various objects and buildings with copper thread and red fiber…” It is interesting finding out the artists response to her work, it gives a resonance and depth to her work that is difficult to find when looking around an exhibition or watching a performance.

Alice Anderson’s copper wire wrappings

Mar Gorman’s installations about the institutionalized Lucy/Joseph, a  female sectioned due to her male behavior and who died in the Oregon State Hospital in 1922. Mar wanted to create a memorial for the forgotten when the hospital closed. Most of the objects on display are not wrapped, but I did take an interest in the ordinary found objects that were among the exhibits and which Mar decided to wrap as part of the display. As a textile artist I find it an intriguing question to ask when considering exhibiting, what should be wrapped and why? The objects below have taken on a secondary meaning with the wrappings, as the new shapes have hidden or distorted their original function

mar gorman2

Eva Hesse, the post war German/ American artist, now deceased, was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Feminism and Minimalism; She said of her art “I think art is a total thing. A total person giving a contribution. It is an essence, a soul.. In my inner soul art and life are inseparable.” 

Shannon Weber, Who has been working in fiber sculpture for over 30 years, uses mainly reclaimed or natural materials found outdoors. I was particularly struck by her varying techniques. She says “I love stitching, weaving, and laying things together like beach plastics, fish bones, reclaimed metal and wire, which can be 3-7 layers in a piece. If I can’t weave it I will find a way to stitch it in. There is no use of glue in any of my work.” I got permission from her to use some of her images.

My wrapped experiments took some time to mature. Not that I was hesitant about wrapping objects. I saw potential wrappings everywhere, but I felt the work needed to have a deeper meaning for me personally. My first experiments drew me in to wrap something ‘sacred’, the topic running through my Theme Book. I chose an Indian mantra that I had once used to place inside my ‘sacred pod’ a piece I made for my final project in  A Creative Approach to Textiles. It is a mantra I use daily in my yoga practice. At that time I wrote it on deliberately aged paper, wrapped in into a scroll shape and secured it inside a pod of vine and honeysuckle, an ode to the Goddess of Creativity, Saraswathi.

Sacred Pod

For this next sample, I inserted a mantra into plastic coin saver, available in Spain, instead of plastic money bags more familiar in the UK. These can hold one euros worth of one cent pieces. I immediately saw their potential  for holding a small scroll  and in addition, they had interesting fastenings that folded around satisfactorily. With their almost indestructible nature, I assumed they could act as a tiny time capsule.

Plastic one cent saver



I wrapped the first coin saver in black plastic mesh, the kind used in the garden. I wrapped the mesh in red threads of varying weights (2.WM.1a). In History, Myths and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees by James Mooney, printed in 1900 s, The Red Man, living in the East, is the spirit of power, triumph, and success. Red is a warm color. It conjures up conflicting emotions, from passionate love to stop signs, to female blood (since Neolithic times*2), violence, anger and war. Red could be a St Valentine Cupid or a Devil. Some studies show that red can have a physical effect, increasing the rate of respiration and raising blood pressure. It’s use as a colour should be used with caution or in small splashes.


I intended the next wrap on this object to be white thread. White is for purity, blank pages, virgin snow and brides dresses, it is not an accent color, rather a colour that other colours are set off against. My other wrappings had been colours that were easily available and at hand, the colours  for these sample were deliberate. Black, red and white. My husband thought they looked like tampons! I feel he has a point.

2.UW.2 and 2.UW.3

I created two more  mantra holders, with different mantras, using the same colorways in different orders. Black, red or white fabric wrapped in either black white or red threads. Maybe I need to consider how to join them together?  I do not want to undo the wrapping and redo these pieces. I may provoke this concept further and make a lot more and create a hanging of sacred mantras. I have about 20 empty coin holders and feasibly I could get hold of a lot more from the bank.

One of my mantras

The next wrapping came out of the story of an archaeological dig in northern Israel. It was said that, the find, which appeared to be a bundle of plant fibers wrapped around a broken clay pot, contained earrings believed to be 3,300 years old. Experts believe the earrings were used for trade purposes before the use of currency. “The jug and its contents appear to be Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age, in the 13th century BC, the time of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings described in the Hebrew Scriptures...” archaeologist Robert Mullins, an associate professor of biblical studies at Azusa Pacific University said “….This is one of only 20 silver hoards ever found in Israel.”


The earrings and other silver pieces were cleaned by Mimi Lavi, conservationist in the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Photo: Gabi Laron, Institute of Archeology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

I have a box of old jewellery that I have been hoarding for such a project. The image of the find reminds me a little of one Shannon Webber’s more beautiful natural pieces (see below). It looks rather organic, not unlike a bird’s nest. The blue/grey tint of the Israel find reminds me very much of handmade felt. I have some banana plant fibers and wrapped wire and I want to experiment. Now where will I find a broken pot? Yes, I could buy something cheap and break it, but first I will search my stash of household objects and my garden as well as my husband’s workshop for other materials.


Photo: With permission of Shannon Weber, the artist

After a half day of research, I realised that I cannot mimic the Israel hoard without a lot of effort and time. Making the right type of felt will take a day, even if I had the supplies (which I don´t). I live on an island where getting hold of art supplies means that I have to order everything in advance. Shannon Weber can take months for her works to mature and I think this idea may be on that time scale. I have to be realistic, the work I do  for this project is all about sampling and then maybe later considering how to evolve the idea. I have to use what is to hand, in my home and around the island. I have therefore gone with the banana leaf idea, wrapping some objects that look like the Israel earring finds. Oddly enough they did not arise out of my jewelry stash, but my husband’s electronics supplies.

The fresh green banana leaf idea did not work for the wrapping experiment, even though it is a leaf that I use to wrap fresh caught salmon and bake in the oven. Delicious! But I am rambling away from artistic endeavor.

The green banana leaf wrapping broke up and did not yield to being wrapped around my small objects. I abandoned the idea and looked at the dried leaf alternative and cut them off the plant. I have plenty to choose from, there are 6 banana plants in various stages of growth and decay in my garden. I wrapped the objects and then tied them with cotton string. I left the strings long and uncut. I found a tiny wooden chest and placed them inside, like treasure. A very different outcome than I had first thought, but I was pleased with the process and the result given the time frame.

Fresh and dried banana leaves


bana wrap3
Electrical components
banaa wrap2
Wrapped fiber bundles
banana wwrap1
Bundles in ‘treasure chest’


*1 David Bourdon, “Christo”, Harry N. Abrams Publishers, Inc., New York City, 1970

Alice Anderson: The Independent. Monday 27 July 2015 ·Memory Movement Memory Objects’ Everyday objects wrapped in copper wire

Israel Dig






Part 2:Project 2 : Ex 1: Straight Wrapping

Exercise 1: Straight Wrapping with Threads

I chose a hammer for my first wrapping experiment (2.w.1a and 2.w.1b). I chose wool thread as the wrapping medium, as a juxtaposition to the solid, almost male nature of the object. I left the sides of the metal hammer open,  in effect it can be still be used without impediment. Next I wrapped a fine silver crochet thread around it. There was a sense of humour in this project. My husband asked me what on earth I thought I was doing to ‘his’ tools. I explained that this is my own hammer that I keep for various art related projects in my studio. I am tempted to embroider the word `mine` on this piece.


I wrapped a kitchen object (2.w.2a) in a wire that I had previously wrapped in torn fabric. I liked the solidity of the wrapping and it clung to the wood easily. I removed the wrapping and it remained beautifully intact (2.w.2b).

wire wraps
2..w.2b and 2.w.2c

I attempted the same experiment using a finer gauge of plastic coated wire without it being wrapped in fabric. It created an interesting scribble effect when first wrapped around the hammer.


I next wrapped a household peg with wool (2.w.3a). I kept going with the idea using different layers. I could visualize a little figure emerging, so I wrapped a piece of strong wire first with plastic then wrapped the plastic with wool threads to create ‘arms’. I wrapped these into the back and I left the top exposed a little, they reminded me of eyes (2.w.3b). I could take this idea further and create a series of little alien mummy figures.


For another sample, I wrapped a volcanic stone in a piece of fabric wrapped wire (2.w.4a) it was much to springy for this experiment. The stone was so smooth the wrapping material did not attach very well. However the result was interesting, it looked like some kind of strange insect on its back!  I next wrapped the stone in wool thread (2.w.4b), this gave the stone enough ‘bite’ for the wrapping to be more successful. I played with the placement, as I discovered that the wire can be folded and molded into interesting shapes.

white wool

I looked for a more interesting background for the wool sample and placed it into a simply decorated wooden bowl, etched with white marks. I provoked this idea a little further with more colours and varying weights of thread 2.w.4.c.

stone and wool




My next sample in this series began as a result of a You Tube video presented by Sir David Attenborough. He highlighted the plight of endangered species and what individuals can do to help rid the planet of the outrageous notion that man can do as they please with wildlife or use them as a commodity. I have been a member of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) since I was 10 years old.

I took an innocent looking child’s toy for the following sample (2.w.5).


I wrapped it in blood-red yarn, I bound its paws, gagged its mouth, covered its eyes, and bound its tail to its body. I only left its nose and ears free. This is a metaphor to help describe the heinous trade and pleasure people derive  from using wild animals, placing them in danger of extinction (1*) and the cruelty inherent in such abhorrent treatment.


The toy tiger, like hundreds of children’s toys, has a darker side(*2). They are made of fire-retardant polyester,  from crude oil, which contains dangerous toxins that can harm the body. It will also take 1000’s of years for the fibers to break down if it ends up in a landfill site.  The toy is very likely to have been made in China, in factories that pour toxic waste into the world’s oceans. I bought it for €1 at a charity table-sale specifically to use as an art project. It looked as good as new, its hard to credit that so many toys just like this have so little use. How did humans ever learn that this seasons ‘must buy’ is tomorrows reject? I’m also weighing up the environmental costs of the time and effort that goes into the  manufacture and journey from China to a Lanzarote charity sale. I am not going to give this toy tiger a cute, fun, name. I hope it would raise questions if any children or my grandchildren come across it. I would love the opportunity for them to learn the word ‘sustainability’.


*1  Endangered Species : of which the South China Tiger is number 10

*2 European commission in-depth report plastics and polyester dangers


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